Fandom refers to a community of people who are passionate about something, whether it’s a film, a band, a television show, a book, or a sports team.  The growing availability of media and social networks have provided individuals more opportunities to discover content and then more easily find groups of like-minded people with whom they can share and exchange proof of their fandom (discussions, writing, art, etc.).
How It’s Developing
For many, the idea of fandom may be most readily associated with the television series Star Trek and the Trekkies who led letter-writing campaigns to extend the series and attended conventions where they met the actors and creators of the series. Fandom, however, might find even earlier origins in the Lisztomania frenzy over the pianist Franz Liszt, the fans of the Sherlock Holmes detective stories, die-hard sports fans, or even the music fandoms of Sinatra, Elvis, or the Beatles.
The internet has allowed fandom to happen almost everywhere – and around anything – and has been driven by blogs, fan forums, archives (sites set up to house fan work), online communities, and Cons (originally comic conventions but used broadly for a range of fan conventions). [2
] In addition to providing a space for collective admiration of the object of the fandom, these spaces can also offer opportunities for building mutual understanding, analyzing meaning, and celebrating other fans’ creations and insights. [3
] Fandoms can be particularly important for individuals who may be otherwise introverted or focused on very niche cultural interests. Fandoms provide opportunities to connect with other like-minded individuals and the network of fandoms allows easier discovery from one interest into a whole range of interests.
Comic-Cons, originally built around comic books and sci-fi and fantasy but now a venue for “multi-genre entertainment” (horror, animation, anime, manga, toys, card games, video games, etc.), have helped demonstrate the growing crowd of fans and the business of fandom. When the San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC) International started (then the Golden State Comic-Con), only 145 attendees participated to help raise funds for the inaugural edition which brought in just 300 people. [4
] SDCC has had not less than 103,000 attendees since 2005 and is approaching venue capacity with attendance at 130,000 in recent years – and provides an estimated $488.4 million dollars of economic impact for the San Diego area from 2013 to 2015. [5
] Similar events in New York, Seattle (Emerald City Comic-Con), Chicago (C2E2), Denver, Detroit (Motor City Con), and other cities have demonstrated the growth of fandom and the increased demand for fans meeting together around the objects of their fandom. [6
A fandom's growth is important - they need to attract a constant stream of new, active fans, contributing to the group’s vibrancy, inclusiveness, and democratic structure. [7
Fandoms’ growth can be challenged by internal and external forces. Externally, there are still perceptions that fandom’s mania is strange, at the least, or, at worst, symptom of psychological or social dysfunction. [8
] Internally, fandoms may struggle with diversity, in terms of race/ethnicity, age, or gender. Complaints about sexual harassment at cons have led to the development and promotion of policies to address the issue. [9
] Young people’s, and especially girls’, fandoms or their participation in larger fan groups may be dismissed as either faddish or as lacking the critical thinking of older counterparts. [10
Fandoms can also upend what many people consider “normal.” The bronie fandom (mostly male and adult fans of My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic
) upends entrenched notions about what men and boys can like and feel. [11
] Other fandoms intentionally subvert straight-white-male worldviews, remixing content to feature diverse subtexts. [12
Why It Matters
As cultural institutions that preserve and provide access to books, video, music, and an increasing array of media, fandoms may be obvious partners in promoting literacy, engagement with culture, and media creation.
Fandom increasingly assumes active creation – writing, recording, drawing, remixing, role-playing – rather than just passive consumption of media. [13
] Fandoms around Game of Thrones
, science fiction television series and movies, and superhero franchises may increase interest in table-top games and other non-digital activities that libraries could leverage into tournaments or other face-to-face social activities. [14
] This could make it an important space for libraries to design programming and instruction around, especially in ways that promote Connected Learning
that is highly social, interest-driven, hands-on , and production oriented.
Because fandom encourages and furthers a “remix” culture, it may be an interesting space for librarians and information professionals observe, especially as it changes the nature of copyright law, derivative and transformative works, and fair use. [15
As a tool for constructing community and identity, fandoms may help further library’s goals to be centers of community and engagement. Fandoms may also help libraries bring together diverse individuals around shared culture and/or engage individuals who had not previously participated in the library’s services.
Notes and Resources